If Jesus Came for the First Time This Year

Related imageIntroducing this “Nativity Story with a Modern Twist,” author Joy Kingsbury-Aitken writes – “Each year churches use nativity plays to involve their children in the telling of the story of the first Christmas. Finding creative new ways of doing this is often challenging. This version locates the story in our time and our place and in our summer.”

A 5-page pdf can be downloaded here.

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A Birth in Bethlehem – A Nativity Play

In 2011, Joy Kingsbury-Aitken wrote the service-length drama, “A Birth in Bethlehem – A Nativity Play,” with church youth groups in mind, and including congregational singing of hymns and carols between scenes.  You can obtain a pdf of this 25-page drama here.

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Prayers from the New Zealand Hymnwriters

John Thornley, Palmerston North, led the second Advent service at Wesley Broadway on 10 December 2018. Theme focus: Peace.

Each of the four Advent services focused on one country as a recipient of CWS aid, and John’s country was Palestine. John’s chosen theme: ‘No peace without justice/No justice without peace’. Three of the carols chosen were texts by Shirley Erena Murray – Peace Child, Dream a Dream, and All Over Creation.

In the whole service there was a continual linking of the Christmas story 2000 years ago, and the realities of peace/justice issues in 2018. A fourth hymn text – ‘God Weeps’ – was adapted as a response prayer, described not as ‘Confession and Assurance’ but ‘Confession and Commitment’:

Leader: God weeps
at love withheld,
at strength misused,
at children’s innocence abused
All: and till we change the way we love
God weeps.

Leader: God bleeds
at anger’s fist,
at trust betrayed,
at women battered and afraid,
All: and till we change the way we win,
God bleed.

Leader: God cries
at hungry mouths,
at running sores,
at creatures dying without cause,
All: and till we change the way we care
God cries.

Leader: God waits
for stones to melt,
for peace to seed,
for hearts to hold each other’s need,
All: and till we understand the Christ.
God waits.

[Used by permission]

John says, ‘There are many hymn texts in the four NZ hymnbooktrustlogocollections  published by the New Zealand Hymnbook Trust that find a place in worship as prayers/ reflections.’

To order the books: Website: www.hymns.org.nz
Or email Philip Garside Publishing Limited, Christian mail order specialists.

Prayer for Children

Come As You Are

Dear God, you know what?
I reckon coming to church
is like a “come as you are party.”

You do not invite us
because we are good looking,
or well dressed or have clean hands,
or because we are extra nice people.

You invite us to come as just we are,
with all our faults poking out
like elbows through a worn jacket.
Thank you for loving us
with such an accepting love.
Amen!
– Bruce Prewer

Prayer for Children – http://www.bruceprewer.com/DocC/C51sun22.htm

Advent is Here – a prayer of approach from Rosalie Sugrue

advent 02

Prayer of Approach (read antiphonally)

Advent is here
In this liturgical season of anticipation
Free us to embrace Christmas in all its fullness
Help us enter the magic world of myth and story
With the unfettered imagination of children
Present in the moment
Living in the story

Advent is here
In this liturgical season of preparation
Free us from becoming overburdened
By the many things we have to do
Help us meet angels in our story
May angels quell our fears
As they did for Mary and Joseph

Advent is here
May angels give us safe directions
As they did for the Magi
May angels startle us to wonder
As they did for the shepherds
And may we sing from angel song-sheets
Songs of hope and peace that evoke joy
and spontaneous acts of love. Amen

Rosalie Sugrue

Auckland Ecumenical Lay Preachers’ gathering, 24 Nov 2018

Auckland Nov 18

Eighteen gathered to hear Rev Bob Franklyn introduce “Fresh Expressions of Church”  which was conceived in the UK and was introduced into NZ in 2010. We examined the changes in our society over the past 20 years: a big one being theology versus the developments in science, changing relationships, changing cultures, less knowledge of Faith, and a deep spiritual hunger. Church culture can stifle creativity. Churches can frame regulations and structures to order its life and protect against error, but these can create a “can’t do” rather than a “can do” mindset. People can feel restricted and disempowered.

We examined what is meant by church and were in fits of laughter with “Mr Bean Goes to Church” and a smile was left on our lips when it was mentioned spot the Protestants in Mass because they were just behind in the rituals, which led to “What makes Church Church?”

We were asked to design our own church. Everyone seemed to have space that could be utilised in many ways and one the great idea of a huge pop-up tent wherever it was needed. We were alerted to the wanting to please The People. Church has become the centre and we’re not meeting the needs of those on the edge. Bob said “He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.  It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.”

We examined Acts 2 verses 42-47 in a negative way and we were shocked because the realisation that all the Apostles did really became so magnificent and fresh. Church should be an invitation to come as you are. Not just for those who are regulars or members but for future members: We were encouraged to put aside the things that were a hindrance. Bob talked of the Christ-shaped hole in us that cannot be filled by horoscope or palm readings.

A shared Morning Tea gave us time to get to know each other and then Linda Hall of Morning teaNZLPA extolled its virtues for Lay Preachers with access to the Website (https://nzlpa.wordpress.com) for preaching material, news of courses and Gatherings. The membership of $25 waged and $20 unwaged includes receiving “Word & Worship” booklets by post, 4 times a year.

Bob Franklyn continued by saying that Fresh Expression of church is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church. The principles of listening, service and making disciples will have the potential to become a mature expression of Church shaped by Gospel and the enduring marks of The Church in the cultural context.

Fresh Expressions of Church is not taking away Sunday services. It is held at a time and place suitable for the community. But first a careful look at the community needs consideration; it’s demographics, the venue, a group of 5-8 lay people to get it off the ground; the styles of Church with Christ at the centre. 60% of all fresh Expressions is lay-led. Do not give up if you have failures!

A formative journey underpinned by prayer and an on-going listening relationship within the wider Church. A Listening, Loving and serving, Building community, Exploring discipleship, Church taking shape, DO IT, Gathered and centred in Christ, and DO IT AGAIN! The formats are numerous, but best to devise what is needed by your community or based on “Fresh Expressions” examples like Messy Church once a month art and craft all age involvement, Songs and a cuppa for the Old, Konnections; Morning Tea and a God Slot. Zac’s Place (Based on Zacchaeus) and open to all in the city using Bible study as a basis in a café setting. Bread Making in a Bakery-come-café setting. It’s Church Planting Jim, but not as we know it! (Taken from Star Trek speech.) It’s a development that is attractional: Come, Go and then come, go and stay with Fresh Expressions, form a community away from the Main Church but utilizing Church buildings.

Linda Hall
Correspondence Secretary
of the New Zealand Lay Preachers Association. (NZLPA)